hhuman resources

Why is more important than What

What does it mean to hire someone successful?

What it shouldn't mean is hiring people who work the hardest, the fastest or the cheapest. And it shouldn't mean hiring people who will simply follow instructions. Because these people will get tired. And when they get tired of that work, tired of you, they will go away. People going away means you need to find new ones. And that costs money. Turns out it costs way more to keep finding, hiring and training new ones (then putting up with people growing tired, being unhappy, firing them, defending lawsuits, etc.) than just hiring people that choose to stay a long time. Unhappy people get tired…happy people stay awhile.

What it does mean is hiring people who want, care about and value the same things you do. And it means hiring people who make the choices you would make. It means finding people who are aligned with you and as a result are happy doing what you do.

Success and happiness are not about stature and money. Those are outcomes, results of deeper convictions and associated actions…one's core values. As a society we like to measure success in the results a person has achieved (experience, job titles, college degrees, kids not in jail, compensation history, etc.). And to some degree this is fair since the outcomes are directly tied to a person's world views, culture and the choices they've made throughout life. But given the possibility that two people with generally the same outcomes may have arrived there on completely different paths, with different ideals, a different series of fortunate or unfortunate events, different teachers, different parents, etc., it's worth digging deeper. 

What (someone has done) is not what's important. Because what is not what you're paying for. You're actually paying for Why…why they chose to accomplish something…not the fact that they arrived. What a person is likely to accomplish (in your organization) is based on how they will act, how they will relate to and connect with others and how they feel about themselves and the people around them. If they found their way to past accomplishments doing things you wouldn't do or wouldn't be proud of doing, it's best to know that up front so you can either avoid them or mitigate the misalignment in some way. This way you'll both be happy.

So why then are we hiring, promoting, firing, measuring performance based on What people do instead of Why they do them? Mainly because the way we've been measuring outcomes has been baked-in for ions, from pre-school through retirement. It's basically a life of multiple choice and whoever has the most awards, stripes or certifications wins. And besides, it's far easier to measure results than it is to asses core values. College Degree? Check. Ability to type 50 words per minute? Check. Didn't get fired for stealing? Check. Trying to determine how someone is wired…much more challenging. But not impossible.

Here's how I do it…at least how I start anyway. The first question I ask a candidate (Hint, it has nothing to do with work experience, GPA or how many people they managed.)? What are your dreams? What do you want to do with the rest of your life? Okay, that's two questions. But you get the picture. Here's another question I always ask…what do you do for fun? Usually these two (three) questions tell me more about a person (and why they do things) than ten of the more standard HR questions ever will. And it always, always changes the tone of the interview. It loosens things up. It makes it okay to be human. Now, with the standard HR stuff out of the picture, we can get down to figuring out if we're both going to be happy…with each other. Try it…it's fun.

The easy thing to do is to find people who are experienced and seemingly a good fit based on their abilities, which is their aptitude measured by past performance…stuff they've done well. You'll get some good hires this way. And they will do their jobs well...at least for a bit. But for long-term success culture, happiness and personal fulfillment win. Personality, character, love of the game, and passion for the same things the organization stands for trumps productivity and efficiency every time. So go find some dreamers.